India's edible oil imports rose 34 per cent in November to 15.29 lakh tonne on a sharp jump in the import of crude palm and refined palm oils, according to industry body SEA.
The Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA) on Wednesday released the data of imports of total vegetable oils comprising edible oil and non-edible oil for November, the first month of 2022-23 oil marketing year.
As per the data, imports of vegetable oils rose 32 per cent in November 2022 to 15,45,540 tonne from 11,73,747 tonne in the same month last year.
Out of total vegetable oil imports, SEA said shipments of edible oils increased to 15,28,760 tonne in November this year from 11,38,823 tonnes in the same month of 2021.
Import of non-edible oils fell 52 per cent in November 2022 to 16,780 tonne from 34,924 tonne in the year-ago period.
Further, in the edible oils category, SEA said imports of crude palm oil (CPO) were the highest in a single month.
India imported a record 9,31,180 tonnes of CPO in November 2022 as against 4,77,160 tonne in the year-ago period. The previous high for CPO import was 8,78,137 tonne in October 2015, it added.
Import of RBD (refined) palmolein increased to 2,02,248 tonne in November from 58,267 tonne in the same month last year. Sunflower oil imports also increased to 1,57,709 tonnes from 1,25,024 tonne.
However, shipments of crude soyabean oil declined to 2,29,373 tonne last month from 4,74,160 tonne in November 2021.
SEA expressed concern over the excessive import of RBD palmolein as it is hitting the domestic refiners.
"The current import duty difference of 7.5 per cent between CPO (5 per cent) and refined oil (12.5 per cent) encourages import of refined palmolein into our country as opposed to CPO," the association said.
Needless to say, this import of finished goods is contrary to the national interests and is seriously affecting the capacity utilisation of the domestic palm refining industry, it added.
"The main reason for rise in palmolein imports is the encouragement given by exporting countries (Malaysia and Indonesia) to their industry. They have kept high export duties on crude palm and low export duty on palmolein (finished product)," SEA said.
The import duty difference of 7.5 per cent between CPO and refined palmolein is insufficient to block the imports, it added.
The association has strongly recommended creating a 15 per cent duty difference between CPO and RBD palmolein by raising the import duty on RBD palmolein from 12.5 per cent to 20 per cent.
"Overall imports into the country would not be affected and it will have no impact on edible oil inflation. On the contrary, it will help improve capacity utilisation and employment generation in our country. This would also be in line with our Prime Minister's vision of Make in India," SEA said.
India's imports of edible oils increased to 140.3 lakh tonne in the 2021-22 marketing year ended October from 131.3 lakh tonne in the previous year. In value terms, imports of edible oils rose 34 per cent to about Rs 1.57 lakh crore in 2021-22 from Rs 1.17 lakh crore in 2020-21.
The country meets around 60 per cent of its domestic demand through imports. India imports palm oil from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. Soyabean oil comes from Argentina and Brazil, while sunflower oil comes from Ukraine and Russia.